What are some key ways a new leader can develop a “thicker skin”?
After having worked with thousands of new (and established) leaders, I would say the most important first thing to do is learn how to accept ALL feedback as useful in one way or another.
Even if you don’t personally agree with the feedback, someone gave it to you because they feel you’re “capable” of performing the way they are perceiving it. Therefore, it’s critical to accept the perceptions provided as how someone sees you, then respond to that.
The second key strategy, and linked to the first, is to learn how to “respond” (reflective, thoughtful, emotionally intelligent and wise) to feedback compared to “reacting” to it (possibly quick, harsh, argumentative, refuting, less emotionally intelligent and unwise).
The two quick strategies to train yourself to respond versus react are:
1. First, say “Thank you” to whatever feedback you’ve been provided. It buys you a few seconds to think about how you’ll respond, and demonstrates to the other person that regardless of how you feel about what they said specifically, you’re grateful they felt that you are open to feedback in the first place.
2. Do anything else you can to delay responding in order to allow yourself some reflective time. This could be seconds, minutes, hours or a full day. However waiting, any more than 24 hours to respond to the feedback may incite more negative outcomes. So respond in a timely manner….but don’t react immediately.
How can leaders better manage their personal brand, internally and externally?
My favourite activity for this is called the Reputation / Brand Wheel.
The first step is to come up with ten criteria that you want to be known for; what you need to be exceptional at in order to earn the reputation you want. The better your perform in all ten of these areas, the more visible the positive brand you design will show up.
Label the components of the wheel with each of the ten qualities.
Then rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 and mark that on that segment of the wheel.
Once you’ve completed the self-evaluation, then explore each of your answers. For example, if you marked one of the segments of the wheel as “Honesty”, and you rated yourself a seven, here are some self-coaching questions you could ask yourself:
- What does a 10 look like? (The ultimate desired state)
- What would it take me to get to an 8, then a 9, then a 10? (The milestones)
- How did I get to a 7? (The history and lessons learned)
- Who would benefit if I increased in this area? How would I feel? (The purpose for change)
- What am I committed to do about this? (The plan and action)
- How will I know I achieved my desired reputation? (The measures)
You could work with an internal or external coach or mentor, or potentially even your leader, to help you with this and increase the accountability.
Retest yourself every month for one year, and do some self coaching about your progress, and you will have achieved an amazing new or enhanced reputation by the end of the twelve months!
How can leaders communicate more directly and portray a “real identity” with their audience?
Authenticity is the most important part here, however be careful that you don’t misunderstand what authenticity is.
For example, if you know you’re a bit gruff, aggressive or even a jerk sometimes, don’t think that saying, “Hey that’s just who I am…I’m being authentic” means you’re actually being authentic. It probably means you’re being “below the line” and not seizing the opportunity to be a better person, which makes you a better leader.
Your “real identity” needs to be who you are now AND demonstrating your awareness of how you need to be better AND your commitment to becoming better. Share your areas of development and what you’re doing about them. If people see you trying to be your best, they will continue to give you feedback to help you get there and celebrate when you do. If you hide that part of yourself, they may doubt your interest and capability for being better, and their feedback may become harsher over time…and then you’ll have to deal with that later when you finally accept its important to change.